Hyderabad: The once ubiquitous radio, has been replaced today with modern tech advancements in all practicality. Podcasts and Youtube videos have essentially changed how the world consumes information, be it news, movies, entertainment, or just plain simple music.
Gone are the days when one would find someone to fix radios, TV sets, or even tape recorders, given that our smartphones have literally replaced most all those devices. In such a modern world, there is however still one place in Hyderabad that is stuck in time, where radios from bygone eras, and from around the world, are still sent for repairs.
Welcome to Mahboob Radio Service, a place where one can get a glimpse into the past, when tube TV sets, tape recorders, radios, transistors, etc were the norm. Among the plethora of machines there, decades-old radio sets stand out in the store, which is one of the few places today where ‘old tech’ can be fixed.
“We have been fixing radios here from over five decades. Me and my elder brother Mujeebuddin learnt it from our father Shaik Mahboob, who first began selling radios which he used to bring from Bombay,” said Mohd. Moinuddin (70), while sitting and tinkering at an old radio set.
The story of this old store in fact goes way before 1948, when the erstwhile state of Hyderabad was run by its last Nizam, Osman Ali Khan. Shaik Mahboob was in fact selling PVC pipes which he would import from Bombay. One fine day he brought back with him a radio, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“After he brought back the radio with him and sold it, he got a few more pieces. Then he began learning how to fix those radios. In those times, you could only listen to the few channels that were there. Earlier, whenever we would turn on the radio, everyone would gather around to listen,” recalled Mr. Moinuddin.
In Mahboob Radio Service, one can find all sorts of radios, be it a Phillips, Murphy, GEC, Johnson, Marconi, Telefunken, or any other well-known company one can think of from decades ago. “We have one from America as well, which is over 80 years old,” recalled Mr Moinuddin.
Mahboob Radio Service in fact was set up in 1948, the same year when the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad was annexed to India on September 17. However, even before that, Shaik Mahboob was already fixing radios at Dabeerpura. He eventually shifted to Chatta Bazar at the shop’s current location, where it stands out amidst scores of printing presses.
Understanding the importance of his job, Mr Moinuddin has also stocked up on spares and old radio sets, many of which he uses for parts. “Valve radios stopped manufacturing by the 1970s itself. After that, things kept changing,” Mr Moinuddin reminisced.
More importantly, he pointed out that unlike devices today, which contain a motherboard, radios can be repaired over and over again. “Today, you can’t really fix motherboards easily, and once it is spoilt, it has to be entirely replaced. In old radios, you can keep replacing parts, and those will work forever,” said Mr Moinuddin, with a bit of laughter.
Unlike today, where tech has become cheaper to own, owning radios was only for the elite. What was even peculiar, or perhaps funnier, was that repairmen like Mr Moinuddin and his father had literally no say in their remuneration.
Ask him about it, and he narrates tales from years ago, when some Nawab or the other would call him to fix a radio. Among that elite section was also the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, who was among one of the many customers of Mahboob Radio Service.
“Oh, in those times, they (Nawabs) would give us their radios to fix. Once it was done, we had to actually go all the way to their home, operate the radio and show them that it was working. They used to pay us anything they liked, say Rs.20 or Rs.30. No one could dare ask for a price!” recalled Mr. Moinuddin.
Today however, the situation is quite in contrast, wherein people from different cities and even other countries come to get their radios fixed.